• STAFF REPORT, KYODO, REUTERS

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Japan reported 455 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, marking the first time daily infections topped 400, NHK said.

The latest tally comes just a day after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared a state of emergency over the deadly virus for Tokyo, Osaka and five other prefectures.

Nationwide, the number of cases rose to nearly 4,900, with at least 102 deaths. The number is still far smaller than in many European countries and the United States.

Tokyo, which has confirmed the highest number of infections in the nation, confirmed a record 144 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, the metropolitan government said. The daily figure marks the first rise in three days and comes after a then-record 143 cases were confirmed Sunday. The routes of infections were unclear for 95 for the new cases reported Wednesday.

The latest infections bring the total number of confirmed cases in the nation’s capital to 1,338, according to Tokyo Metropolitan Government data. A total 1,112 people were hospitalized with 31 deaths reported in the city from the pneumonia-causing virus as of Tuesday evening.

Neighboring Kanagawa Prefecture also reported 43 new cases Wednesday, marking the highest reported daily infections.

In his state of emergency declaration on Tuesday, Abe called on the public to slash people-to-people contact by 70 to 80 percent for a month in a bid to flatten the rate of infections within two weeks in hopes of a gradual decline.

Still, just a day after it was announced, commuters heading to work packed into trains in Tokyo, with some expressing confusion over how best to restrict their movements.

“It’s unavoidable that people have to come out for work,” said Risa Tanaka, an office worker wearing a mask near Shinjuku Station, who said she usually tried to work at home, but had stepped out to deliver some documents.

“I don’t know if the emergency declaration is enough.”

The scenes in Tokyo contrasted with measures across Europe being enforced by police patrols on the streets and also through the use of drones in some countries, such as Britain and France.

French residents have had to carry an official form justifying their presence outside their homes and face stiff penalties for breaching the rules.

Despite some claims that police have used heavy-handed tactics, the enforcement has largely succeeded, leading to bare city streets and the effective shutdown of much of Europe’s local businesses, though some flouting has included party gatherings in parks.

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